We live in a sea of chemical and biological pollutants, both internal and external.
External Environment and Food
Formaldehyde from Furnishings
Internal Environment of the Body
Byproducts of our Metabolism and Bowel Bacteria
Why Do We Need Detoxification?
A few years ago I had a patient who had been an airplane mechanic for 20 years, breathing fumes from the airplanes every day with no apparent ill effects. Then one day he developed Parkinson’s disease. It came out of nowhere, or did it?
Unfortunately, his body didn’t give him any warning. If he had felt fatigued, forgetful, or short of breath, he would have known he was damaging his nervous system. But Parkinson’s disease is well known to be related to exposure to pesticides and frequently patients have had an occupational exposure to them. In fact, one well known fungicidal agent called Mancozeb, which is available in garden stores, has been used experimentally to create Parkinson’s disease in primates in order to test drugs!
When I started doing Functional Medicine in 2000 and I opened up my practice to all patients, not just Dermatology patients, for a Functional approach to their medical problems, I started seeing that many patients had constellations of symptoms such as
Muscle and Joint Pains
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Cognitive and Attention Difficulty
Often these patients were told they had “normal” blood tests.
The medical system was treating these patients’ symptoms one at a time, so they would be on: Ambien for sleep, Xanax for anxiety , Advil for pain, Prempro for menopause, Adderal for attention deficit, Imitrex for headache, Orlistat for weight loss – Fat blocker and an antidepressant because they had to be depressed if they had that many symptoms!
But what do all these symptoms mean?
I decided to look up the symptoms of of pesticide and mercury poisoning.
Mild Poisoning or Early Symptoms of Acute Pesticide Poisoning:
Headache, Fatigue, Weakness, Dizziness, Restlessness, Nervousness, Perspiration, Nausea, Diarrhea, Loss of appetite, Loss of weight, Thirst, Moodiness, Soreness in joints, Skin irritation.
Symptoms of Mercury poisoning:
Neuropathy, Burning pain, Insomnia, Memory loss, Emotional lability, High blood pressure, Sweating, and Tachycardia (rapid heart rate) .
These symptoms sounded very much like the ones people were coming in with every day.
Could some of these symptoms people are having be due to chronic, low level toxicity? And are the drugs that people are being put on for the symptoms of the toxicity adding to the problem?
We’re seeing an explosion of environmental sensitivities from multiple food allergies to multiple chemical sensitivity, to electromagnetic sensitivity. People’s detoxification systems are overloaded and the treatment for the symptoms does not help the cause of the problem, which is often the capacity of the body to detoxify. A detoxification program is a good place to start to tackle the cause of these multiple symptoms.
What is Detoxification?
People are often confused about the meaning of detoxification. Detoxification is a 2 stage process that takes fat soluble toxins and makes them water soluble and available for excretion through the bowel, urine, skin, and lung.
Many toxic substances are fat soluble, such as hormones and pesticides, are stored in fat tissue. The skin is very permeable to toxic substances such as Parabens and Triclosan in skin creams, cleansers, and shampoos that go right into the body.
Other substances, such as heavy metals, replace your own minerals on enzymes and block their action. These are hard to dislodge but there is a substance your body makes called glutathione which complexes with them and pulls them out of the body.
I like to think of this process as 2 conveyor belts. The first one is called phase 1 and consists of activating the toxic substances. Unfortunately, this can make them more dangerous than the ones you started with because now they are more active but still fat-soluble. Phase 1 hands these substances over to phase 2, which makes them water soluble by complexing them to amino acids, glutathione, sulfur and B12 and folate (methylation). Substances such as certain drugs and especially caffeine can promote phase 1 and not phase 2, which causes toxic substances to back up and be stored if the nutrients for phase 2 are not present.
How Do You Do A Detoxification Program?
A two week detox program will go a long way toward helping to alleviate multiple symptoms. Start by eliminating dairy, gluten, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods and stick to lean proteins, fish, vegetables, and fruits. Sulfur rich vegetables such as garlic, ginger, and onions also help with detoxification. There are a wide variety of products and supplements for detoxification which usually contain such ingredients as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and substances such as glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, choline, watercress, green tea, curcumin, ginger, MSM, and quercitin.